Age is just a number. A big, stupid number. The perspectives we have about being a certain age change when we hit that age. When I was a kid, I thought 30 was old. When I turned 30, I thought 40 was old. When I turned 40, I thought a 9:30 bedtime sounded delightful. Complaining about my own age in this commentary is a delicate venture: I risk alienating and offending anyone older than me by referring to myself as “old.” I also risk losing interest of anyone younger than me by not communicating this message via memes and emojis. Nonetheless, please allow me to vent.
In my younger days, I used to be an amazing athlete. Well, perhaps “amazing” is a overstating it a little. I used to be an athlete. OK, maybe “athlete” is bit of an ambitious description. Let’s leave it at: I used to not get picked last for kickball games ... sometimes. These days, I’ve lost a half-step of speed and quickness in my athletic endeavors. I only had a quarter-step of speed and quickness to begin with, so I’m not really sure how that math works out. I can’t bench press as much weight now as compared to my glory days. Some might argue the bench press isn’t a functional, relevant movement for most adults anyway. However, I might someday need to hoist a slightly soggy foam pool noodle off my chest. I can’t afford to lose much more strength.
Nowadays, I often wake in the morning with aching joints and muscles and immediately try to recall what I did yesterday. I flail my arms and legs in various wonky motions attempting to stumble across the activity that caused the trauma. I finally gather it was from stirring a batch of muffin batter by hand instead of using the automatic stand mixer. I guess I have to stretch sufficiently before baking from now on.
My flexibility has deteriorated as the years have passed. Can I still touch my toes? Maybe if you cut off my foot and hand it to me. I can barely reach the backspace key on the keyboard with my pinky finger any more. Soon readers might have to tolerate more typos in this column.
Maybe I’m just bitter because I’m literally growing shorter. I barely exceed the height requirement to ride the really cool waterslides as it is. Maybe I’m bitter because my hairline is behaving more like a car insurance policy: I used to have “full coverage,” but now I’ve involuntarily downgraded to “liability only.” Maybe I’m bitter because I recently pulled a hamstring sneezing. But my whining seems somewhat justified considering this realization — I’ll likely never be faster, stronger or have more hair than I do today.
Getting older indeed has its challenges. One of the hardest parts of aging is that feeling of a promising future, already spent. It’s a nagging sense that opportunities have come and gone. When we grow older, we no longer look forward to our very first kiss, our first job, the birth of our first child. Thankfully, that depleting perception is somewhat of an illusion. The illusion that as we reach certain milestones in life, we are supposed to stop moving forward. Stop planning. Stop dreaming. My fast-twitch muscle fibers may not be as twitchy as they once were. But my future is as bright now as it ever has been. I still look forward to sending my first child to college. Writing my first novel. Celebrating the Minnesota Vikings first Super Bowl win. (Please stop laughing; I’m trying to deliver a serious, inspirational message here.)
None of us are guaranteed tomorrow. Our future might contain only more day. And it might contain thousands. Our age simply represents the number of years we’ve existed on this planet. It’s just a big, stupid number. It tells us very little about the adventures we are yet to have and feats we are yet to accomplish. Somewhere along the way, society concocted the idea that the future is reserved for the young. But the future belongs to all of us, regardless our age. We are all in the same boat, rowing toward tomorrow. Although technically, the younger generations might have to man the oars while the rest of us go fishing and then take a nap.